2017 has been a year for the books. From politics to pop culture, much has happened that has left an impact on black America. As a result, many in the public eye have spoken up in defense of black lives and used their platform to create positive change for people of color. Here are 9 inspiring people who deserve recognition for the contributions they made in 2017: 

  1. Erica Snipes Garner

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Photo: CNN

After losing her father to police brutality, Erica Snipes Garner made it her mission to bring awareness to police brutality. Since 2014 she has spoken out and protested police brutality, increasing awareness and support around the issue. As she currently battles for her own life, we must honor the way she battled for black lives in 2017.

2. Princess Nokia

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Photo: NLV records

Princess Nokia is known for sharing messages that empower women and black people and even making men stand stand in the back at her shows so women can take the front. So it was no surprise when the up and coming star took on a racist and won. In New York on a busy train a drunk white man decided to run around an L train carriage screaming the n word. He yelled it towards a group of students repeatedly creating an uncomfortable ride for all on the train. Princess Nokia decided to stand up for the young men and toon on the drunk and belligerent man later identified as Paul Lawson. She gave him a warning to get off the train before throwing a paper bowl filled with soup at Lawson. When Lawson tried to get back on the train, Princess Nokia with assistance from other pushed him back on the platform. She’s the real MVP. Any other racist want next?

3. Colin Kaepernick

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Photo: CNN

Colin Kaepernick went from being one of our favorite players on the field to one of the biggest voices standing up for justice. When Colin first took a knee on the field during the national anthem in 2016, it set off a chain of events that led to a grievance being filed against the NFL and widespread beliefs that he was being blackballed from ever playing football again. Colin’s work is just beginning as he continues to give to causes that advance social justice and influence other players to take a knee.

4. Takiyah Thompson

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Photo: Huffington Post

Two days after the nationalist rally in Charlottesville, VA college student Takiyah Thompson took action against America's long history of racism and oppression and the statues that honor it. In doing so, she climbed a ladder, looped a hole around the top of the confederate soldiers monument in Durham, NC and brought it down to the ground.

”I think what we did was the best way, and not just the best way, but the only way, because the state and the Klan and white supremacists have been collaborating," she said to Democracy Now. "So what we did, not only was it right, it was just. I did the right thing. Everyone who was there, the people did the right thing. And the people will continue to keep making the right choices until every Confederate statue is gone, until white supremacy is gone. That statute is where it belongs, right? It needs to be in the garbage, incinerated, like every statue—every Confederate statue and every vestige of white supremacy has to go.”

5. Tarna Burke

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Photo: NY Times

While working as a youth worker, Burke was approached by a young girl who confessed to her that her mother’s boyfriend had been abusing her. Burke couldn’t bring herslef to listen to the full story and redirected the young girl to another female counselor. That young girl and her story stuck with Burke who wishes she could have said to the young girl, “ Me Too”. Burke later launched the “Me Too” campaign to help survivors of sexual abuse, assault and sexual exploitation.  Actress Alyssa Milano tweeted using the hashtag  #metoo that led millions of women to share their stories of assault and abuse. Milano later gave credit to Burke for the creation of #metoo. 

6. Angela Rye

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Photo: Angela Rye

Angela Rye takes being unapologetically black and powerful to new levels on CNN. Rye manages to tackle some of the toughest issues with the best grace. She has consistently spoken out about issues affecting communities of color and to hold necessary individuals accountable. She wasn’t afraid to take on anyone in 2017 just like she wasn’t afraid to use Beyonce lyrics to dismiss someone in 2016.

7.Maxine Waters

Auntie Maxine taught us a very valuable lesson this year: Don’t let people waste your time, reclaim it. During a House committee meeting Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was trying to avoid answering Water's questions about why his office had not responded to a letter from her regarding President Trump’s financial ties to Russia. Mnuchin isn’t the first person to try and run out the clock to avoid answering but Auntie Maxine was not having it. As he continued evading the question she continued to use house procedural rules to get him together and reclaim her time!

8. Tamika Mallory

Photo: Newsmax.com

Tamika Mallory is not afraid to ask the tough questions. As a matter of fact, to a crowd full of women at the women’s march, she wasn’t afraid to ask white women as co-chair of the march, “Where have you been?” It’s a question that a lot of us would like to ask our newfound white allies who have decided to take up the fight with us against racism and sexism. Tamika’s decision to continue to lend her voice to combat inequality and social justice has inspired the next generation to follow her path and fight for a more equitable world for women and a safer world for black people.

9.Chance the Rapper

Photo: EW.com

You don’t want any problems when it comes to Chance the Rapper and his love for the city of Chicago. His passion has led him to raising and donating millions of dollars to Chicago Public Schools. Because of his commitment to help make Chicago Public Schools better for students, Chance spoke out against the Mayor and his proposal to build a $95 million police and firefighter training center.

Chance then attended a city council meeting where the mayor left early before hearing the rapper's remarks against the proposed facility. This goes to show that the way to fight some of the very things taking place in our community is to show up and speak out at events like city council meetings and public hearings. If Chance can do it, so can you.

We couldn't possibly list all of the people who have done great work to help advance causes that affect communities of color. Feel like we're missing one of your favorite community heroes? Leave your community hero in the comments.